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Kumoricon launches friendly invasion

Annual event will bring hordes of anime lovers to downtown Vancouver, where they'll dress as their favorite otherworldly characters and mingle with mere humans

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 4, 2015, 6:01am
9 Photos
Jared Runyan, 23, from Portland, dressed as Slender Man, attends the Kumoricon 2012 celebration in Vancouver.
Jared Runyan, 23, from Portland, dressed as Slender Man, attends the Kumoricon 2012 celebration in Vancouver. Photo Gallery

Every year on Labor Day weekend, Vancouver USA becomes Vancouver of the cosmos.

Creatures from across the universe have already started descending on our city and mingling with our unsuspecting citizenry. Have you noticed? Some will welcome the strange invasion, but many Vancouverites will no doubt be going about their downtown business when they suddenly realize they’re surrounded by bizarre beings (who have nothing to do with county elections).

Don’t be alarmed, those beings also are going about their business, which consists mostly of parading around in fantastical outfits and sharing their passion for the multiverse of Japanese animation collectively called anime.

Organizers say they expect this weekend’s anime convention, Kumoricon 2015, to draw as many as 7,000 such visitors, plus hundreds of volunteers, to our binary downtown hotel system: the Hilton Vancouver Washington and the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, both of which are hosting official Kumoricon events and putting up lots of out-of-galaxy guests. The event has jumped from Springfield, Ore., to Portland and then here since its launch in 2003, but it remains all-volunteer run, which is impressive given the truly astronomical numbers of participants, offerings and activities this weekend.

Video and tabletop gaming, amateur artwork and music video contests, spontaneous costume play and prepared live-action sketches, fan panels and expert presentations, anime-related karaoke — even costumed, life-sized chess and a punched-up form of dodgeball known as “probending” (because the players “bend” elements such as water, air and earth) — are a small slice of all that goes on at Kumoricon.

• What: Kumoricon 2015, “the anime convention on the Columbia River.”

• Where: Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St., and Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, 100 Columbia St., Vancouver.

• When: Sept. 4-7. 

• Cost: Single-day passes only — adults, $30 for Friday or Monday and $40 for Saturday or Sunday; ages 6 through 12 get $10 discount; free admission for ages 5 and younger. Pay at the door.

• Age matters: Those younger than 18 must have a parental permission form, which can be found on the website. Those ages 12 and younger will not be admitted without a parent or guardian.

• For all attendees: Photo ID is mandatory to get an admission badge. Badges are not being mailed this year. Attendees who preregistered also must have photo ID to get in.•n On the Web: www.kumoricon.org

The real fun, organizers like to say, is the unscheduled, unplanned encounters that inevitably occur as thousands of otherworldly beings meet and greet in a couple of neighboring hotels facing a comfortable, popular park.

Esther Short Park “has been absolutely huge for us. It’s by far our attendees’ favorite attraction — the park itself — because it’s beautiful and safe and great for photo shoots,” said event chairman Phillip Koop.

Ironically enough — for a gathering where interspecies, interstellar combat is considered good, clean fun — safety and inclusion are important themes at Kumoricon, Koop said.

“Coming together as a group in a way where we can be safe and be ourselves is very important,” he said.

Picture the dedication and passion it takes a teenager to spend days perfecting a costume of their favorite otherworldly character; now picture the reaction if that sincere teenager wore that totally awesome creation to school.

“But they can wear it to Kumorion, and nobody thinks it’s weird at all,” Koop said. “That’s remarkable.”

Koop said he’s especially excited this year to welcome guests including professional anime voice actors and Japanese musicians who work in that world. Also playing at Kumoricon will be punk-pop pixie Kieran Strange of Vancouver B.C., whose songs proudly feature video games and zombie hordes, and Portland synth-rock band The Slants, billed as “the first and only Asian-American dance rock band in the world.”

Capping it all off this year will be a couple of contrasting dance parties. The Kumoriprom will be informal and low-key, but the Kumoriball aims to be a truly formal masquerade ball with a strictly enforced dress code. That means formal attire and masks must be worn at all times. Goggles and monocles aren’t sufficient on their own and handheld masks are discouraged because they get tedious. Surely you’ll want to put that hand down.

The Kumoricon gaming schedule includes a vast variety of fantastical scenes and situations — from classic games such as “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Pokemon” and “Magic: The Gathering” to some truly unlikely mash-ups of serious and silly. Here’s a sample.

Drunken Bear Fighter”: “Punching Drunken Bears in space? Check! Infiltrating a now bear-controlled Nazi Germany in World War II? Check!”

Fallout: Equestria”: A crossover between “My Little Pony” and the “Fallout” video game series. “The cute pegasi, unicorns and ponies must defend themselves against the onslaught of a post-apocalyptic world.”

Ninja Burger”: “Learn the secrets of stealth, swordsmanship, and customer service as you deliver tasty burgers and fries throughout the world. You will bring honor to your franchise. Failure is not an option.”

Rage of Jackson — The Samuel Chronicles”: “Control good versions of Samuel L. Jackson characters while hunting down evil versions of Samuel L. Jackson and preventing them from taking over the world.”

Munchkin Panic”: “Munchkin monsters have found the Castle Panic towers and are on the rampage!” 

“Love Letter”: “Get your love letter into the princess’ hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors.”

School Girls”: “You are female students at a Japanese high school … and that is all you know! The entire adventure will be made up on the spot for maximum chaos in this wild and crazy comedy game.”

Unless, that is, you’re an interstellar octopus who never runs out of arms. Don’t be surprised to see such a being heading out with friends for coffee or a brew in downtown Vancouver this weekend.

Just keep calm, carry on — and hug a zombie!

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; scott.hewitt@columbian.com; twitter.com/_scotthewitt

Kumoriconiacs who like costume play also might like Vancouver’s upcoming Super Fun Hero Run.

That’s a 5K walk-run benefitting scholarships programs at Vancouver Parks and Recreation and Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center. Participants are invited to put on their most creative costume for the 10 a.m. run and stick around for the party and costume contest following the run. The event begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 3 at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver.

Learn more at www.cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/super-fun-hero-run-presented-onpoint-community-credit-union.